“While it is always possible to wake a person who’s sleeping, no amount of noise will wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”
“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”
Back around 2013 presidential brother, Jeb Bush decided that he hadn’t messed up Florida’s education system enough, he wanted to see if he could wreak equal havoc on the rest of the country’s educational systems. So he formed his very own League of Extraordinary Gentlemen culled from the ranks of state superintendents, called them the Chiefs for Change and started peddling snake oil. Unfortunately for Bush and company there wasn’t a large demand for what they were selling.
The challenge from the offset was that the members of his league weren’t so extraordinary and in reality, many of them had a hard time holding on to employment. After a couple of years of watching the numbers of members with emeritus status grow faster than those that were actual state superintendents, Bush open membership to just about anybody with a job in education that wasn’t in the classroom. He didn’t need any of those pesky classroom types getting in there and mucking things up.
Tennessee, not surprisingly, has quite a few folks with membership in the CFC. Malika Anderson, Chris Barbic, Candice McQueen, and current Tennessee State Superintendent Penny Schwinn all have their names enshrined on the wall of shame. Whoops…let me correct myself…Schwinn is a member of the Future Chiefs of Change. She along with Hamilton County’s Chief of Staff Nakia Towns Edwards haven’t earned their wings yet.
Towns Edwards is an interesting one because she is also a poster child for the Peter Principle. Over the last decade, few have managed to sow as much disruption as she.
Towns started out working in Knoxville under Jim McIntyre in a well-documented flameout. Next thing you know she’s working for the TNDOE as a Superintendent overseeing data and research. There she is an integral part of the Measurement Inc and TNReady ongoing fiasco, which she extrapolates herself from by turning up in Chattanooga as Superintendent Bryan Johnson’s Chief of Staff.
As a side note, while at TNDOE, one of Townes’s iniatives was to get teachers to model their classroom tests after TNReady tests, in order to produce better results. Miraculously test scores in Hamilton County jumped last year. The district’s state rankings jumped from 72 to 2nd. Pretty damn impressive, or is there more to the story? But I digress, you get the picture on Chiefs for Change.
Apparently, some folks around Nashville are so enamored with the Chief’s business model that they’ve decided to try and replicate it here. Coming across my desk over the weekend is an invitation to the inagurial event by thenewly formed Superintendents Advocating for Equity, or as I like to refer to them Superintendents who Suck. I think SOS is a lot more catchy then SAE.
Let’s take a look at some of the players in this Chiefs for Change redoux. We’ll start with former Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry Weist. Weist was a succesfull superintendent by testing and longevity metrics, while his critics felt that he didn’t actually listen to people and focused too much on the national stage at the expense of local uissues. Weist’s role in MNPS education history is an under told one.
In 2015, MNPS was looking for a director of schools. An initial search had failed when Williamson County School Director Mike Looney chose to back out at the last minute. After waiting a few months, a new search was scheduled to start with a deadline of May, 2016 set. This time board member Will Pinkston was determined to take a more active role. He and Looney had history and he took Looney’s last minute rejection as a personal afront.
Around the time that the finalist list was being compiled Weast, a Maryland native had miraculously moved to Cookeville and he and Pinkston struck up a relationship. Once the finalist list was announced, Pinkston immediately began selling finalist Shawn Joseph and Weast as a package deal. Weast magnanimously agreed to mentor Joseph if he was hired. Despite Montgomery County’s parents telling me that Weast doesn’t do anything if there is not a check attached to it, I have never seen evidence that Weast services were not strictly on a voluntary basis.
Upon the hiring of Joseph, it didn’t take long for Weast’s services to become devoid of value. Joseph embarked on his own path and failed to heed his mentor’s advice on several occasions. Weast, as a result, became less and less available for consultation.
Joseph’s recent history is well documented. Despite often talking about equity and pitching a few less than thought out strategies, he was never able to establish any real success stories. I would argue that he did more to hurt the equity initiative than he did to promote it.
I think there is an important story to relate here from Joseph’s tenure under Weast in Montgomery County. it’s a tale that involves former MNPS administrator Mo Carrasco who was then employed at MCPS’s Richard Montgomery High School. Carrasco was running a principal training program out of the school on the side. Joseph was involved. Complaints were raised and Weast was forced to investigate.
Ultimately, Carrasco was cleared and moved to a new position at the central office, albeit one with little authority. Joseph received no discernable negative impact for his involvement. Looking through the lens of hindsight at it appears like Weast and Joseph are still watching out for each other. I wouldn’t be shocked if Carrasco shows up at the forum. Which brings us to the third member of the trifecta.
Around the time that things were getting ugly between Joseph and the MNPS school board, friends in Athens, GA, were noticing similarities between their new director of schools and Dr. Joseph. Demond Means arrived from Milwaukee in 2017, leaving a little bit of controversy in his wake. He arrived with great optimism, but currently, things aren’t going so well between Means and his governing board. They find themselves engaged in disagreements that sound eerily familiar ones that plagued Joseph and the MNPS board last year.
Per the Athens Banner-Herald, Means has cited unnamed “special interest groups that have aggressively opposed the Office of the Superintendent’s district reform agenda” of increasing overall student achievement, closing racial achievement gaps and “ensuring education equity for all students and families.” Hmmm…where have I heard that before?
It’ll be interesting to see who signs up for November’s forum. To accomplish the kinds of reforms that these gentlemen are proposing requires the garnishing of a lot of community trust. None of these gentlemen have exhibited any skill at establishing trust, either with a school’s governing body or the general public. I’d like to attend, but since I’m not a superintendent or senior district official, I’m not welcome. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the Future SOS members program opens up.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS
Over the last several years MNPS has made incredible strides in the area of English Language Learner instruction. It started under then executive director Kevin Stacy and has continued forth despite Stacy leaving for a similar role in Clarksville. It was Stacy’s vision and current director Molly Hegwood’s dedication that raised the bar for the department.
As of late the job of educating ELL students has grown even more difficult. Nashville has seen an influx of families joining MNPS over the last several months. Many of these families are from Honduras, along with other parts of South and Central America, and are arriving after stays in American detention centers. This adds additional trauma on top of what they’ve experienced at home, presenting unique challenges for our schools.
For instance, when high school-aged students come to Nashville without transcripts they are put in 9th grade right away. The students could be anywhere from 14 to 17 years old & 364 days in age. Once enrolled students can stay till they graduate, but let’s be honest, students who are late in their teens don’t have time to stay that long – they need to get jobs to help their families. While this can describe many students it often describes students who came from central or South America. we need to keep that in mind when looking at graduation rates and other data. This is just one area where things get complicated.
Nashville should be very proud of the work down by MNPS’s ELL department. As a city, we have committed to making sure that Nashville is a welcoming place, the EL department certainly holds up its end of the bargain. It is in that spirit that I offer this list of resources for ESL teachers. Resources that I think many will find useful.
Worth noting here is that Kevin Stacy is pursuing the vacant school board position of Will Pinkston. His main competition is labor activist Freda Player. Player is well respected and would be a fine choice, except that I think the school board needs more educator voices versus activist voices. Someone well versed in the EL community is essential for the seat that represents this diverse community. I encourage everyone to email their councilperson and let your preference be known.
There is no school board meeting this week as it falls during Fall Break.
Nashville Public Education Foundation believes that, through supporting teachers and leaders, we as a community can build schools where all children thrive. But it can’t be done without your help. Check out their new website to learn more: nashvillepef.org
One of my favorite writers and someone who greatly encouraged me when I first started writing this blog, Jennifer Berkshire, has a new book coming out – A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School. Read it and share it.
Indianapolis is partially addressing the challenge of securing teachers by utilizing the teacher residency program of Relay Graduate School of Education. Relay’s program aims to upend the traditional approach to teacher training by emphasizing practice and focusing less than many traditional teacher training programs on educational theory. ““We are one of the only professions where the first day you go in and you are in the deep end. And you don’t necessarily have the skills to be in the deep end,” Carlotta Cooprider, the founding dean of the Indianapolis residency program, said. “I would say that the residency gives you those skills.”
Surely you see the game that is afoot here. If teachers just work on a skill set and leave all the pedagogy and theory to “experts”, it becomes a whole lot easier to dictate what gets taught. The sad part is, I do believe that Relay is setting up roots in Nashville.
Former Social-Emotional Coordinator Derrick Williams is back with the district as the Director of the district’s PASSAGES initiative. Williams had left to work with Hank Clay at Communities in Schools. Williams is well respect and he is a welcome returnee.
When my kids were in the younger grades they would often come to me and inform me that they were “G” readers or “M” readers. Letters that were meant to signify their attained reading level. They would always get frustrated with me when I would respond by saying, “That’s good but how does reading make you feel.” The Washington Post published an article this weekend that explains why reading levels shouldn’t be our focus, What’s wrong with assigning books — and kids — reading levels.
This past weekend, we focused on asking questions around teacher attrition. Let’s just say…y’all were in the mood to talk. We got a lot of responses, so let’s get to them.
Question one asked whether you thought the issue of teacher attrition as it relates to MNPS was either a district issue or a national one. In your minds, it would appear that MNPS owns at least half of the issue, as the top two answers were “a district issues” and “50/50”. Only 10% of you placed the blame on the national sphere. Here are the write-in votes,
|National is used as an excuse for inaction by local “leaders”||1|
|At Oliver, the problem is admin.||1|
|Both but the fact that MNPS refuses to deal with it is more aggravating||1|
|Culture, climate and lack of courage|
Question two asked what you thought was the leading cause for teacher attrition with MNPS. 24% of you answered, “lack of respect”, but it was clear by the write-in votes that you thought it was a multitude of issues. I guess its time for another panel or survey.
|All of the above||9|
|All of the above!||2|
|all of the above||1|
|City culture, plantation leadership mentality, district divisiveness & racism||1|
|Pay, discipline, HR, lack of respect||1|
|Pay AND discipline||1|
|Over worked planning||1|
|…all of the above||1|
|Demands placed on teachers are unrealistic and new generation is ill equipped||1|
|Demands, class sizes, time, and discipline||1|
|All Of the above||1|
|A combination of all of the above. Is it any wonder why teachers are leaving?||1|
|Discipline issues. Instead of teaching we manage behavior all day||1|
|All of these!!!||1|
|Weak leadership at district and school level||1|
|Combination of the above and unrealistic regulations and “programs.”||1|
|Pay and waste of money at Bransford. Execs make BANK while teachers suffer.||1|
|Tie between discipline, pay, and complete incompetence in HR||1|
|I retired a couple of years ago-all of above!||1|
The last question asked for your opinion on MNPS’s efforts to address the teacher attrition issue. 81% of you answered in a manner that indicates you are not impressed with their efforts. 31% of you indicated that you were unaware of what the strategy even is. Here are the write-in votes,
|Teachers are solving it, so mnps doesn’t care||1|
|What effort? Tony Majors hasn’t done anything to earn that fat check!||1|
|It’s as though they think they have something to offer. ??||1|
|No one is truly trying to solve the issue.||1|
|They don’t truly understand the problem. Let board members sub a few weeks.||1|
|I don’t see any effort to address it.||1|
|They aren’t doing anything. They don’t care if we leave.||1|
|HR understaffed an inexperienced, retirees at the helm|
Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we try to accentuate the positive. There are a lot of pictures from last week’s Walk To School Day.
If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. any wisdom you’d like to share is also welcome.
A huge shout out to all of you who lent your financial support this past month. I am eternally grateful for your generosity.
The official begging may have ended, but you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated.